Integrated Systems Europe (ISE) broke its attendance records yet again this year, with just short of 81,000 attendees compared with slightly more than 73,000 in 2017. The show was visibly busier than last year, with most exhibitors SCN spoke to reporting an increase in the quality of booth visitors alongside the swollen numbers. And, with 1,296 exhibitors to see across 15 halls, it’s likely that visitors went home tired, but satiated. So, how do American exhibitors and attendees view the four-day annual event, and is it worth the investment in time and money?

At press time, the only the broad figures had been released by ISE’s organizers (AVIXA and CEDIA), so we’re unable to say whether or not U.S. interest has spiked compared with 2017. Last year, U.S. attendees were up almost 20 percent (2,333) when compared with 2016, despite the fact that there were 14 percent fewer U.S. companies exhibiting (152), so interest in ISE was obviously growing, amongst attendees at least. What we can say with confidence is that more than 30 percent of this year's total attendees were first-time visitors.

ISE is the largest AV systems integration show in the world, continuing to grow year-on-year since its inaugural, mainly residential-facing inaugural event in 2004. With more than 53,000 square meters of exhibition floor space pushing Amsterdam’s RAI Convention Center beyond its walls and into temporary, bolt-on halls (Hall 15’s Discovery Zone was new for 2018), ISE’s rise shows no signs of plateauing out—although the organizers admit there’s very little scope for further expansion at the RAI. And as the annual attendee and exhibitor number breakdowns show, this is very much a global event, as opposed to a localized European affair.

Indeed, ISE now boasts a broader global reach than any other pro AV show, including InfoComm, and is considered a premium residential event by CEDIA. In other words, it’s hard to ignore. At the same time, an increasing number of manufacturers use the show to launch their new products and services, doubling down on the draw for attendees. Coming as it does early in the year, it provides the perfect platform for making announcements, whether it’s an innovative product, a new marketing campaign, or an organizational restructure.

Certainly, the U.S. manufacturers SCN spoke were effusive in their praise of ISE and its organizers, particularly of AVIXA, producer of InfoComm trade shows and co-owner of ISE. There was also broad acknowledgment of ISE’s importance to U.S. visitors as well as exhibitors—although it’s difficult to say for sure whether attendee numbers have grown year on year. (We’ll have to wait and see what ISE’s organizers have to say about this: numbers are due for release February 16, when we’ll include them as an addendum to this article.)

“The show is growing for us, it’s becoming really important,” said John Monitto, director of business development/sales manager, Meyer Sound. “AVIXA seems to be growing in leaps and bounds, which is exciting. I’d say it’s as busy this year as it has been—it has been amazing these last couple of years. We’ve seen a fair number of American visitors. I think we’re seeing a lot more people from the US coming over, Canadians too.”

AVIXA's conferences are also helping to increase interest in ISE, according to Monitto, giving visitors even more reasons to attend. “It really is getting a lot of attention, becoming a growing thing. I think that they are really supporting ISE too, with the association and everything that goes around it: it helps the show tremendously.”

Nortek Security & Control utilizes ISE as a testing ground for new products, with the international nature of the event helping to ensure that opinion is broad church, although the company didn’t see many U.S. visitors on its booth this year.

“ISE remains a very important international show for us,” said Nortek’s Bill Hensley, sr. director, marketing. “It’s the chance to meet with integrators from all over the world, not just to present our new products, but also to listen to their needs. A number of the products we introduced at the show were inspired by needs expressed by integrators working with our products and solutions.

“For us, the quality of visitors we meet with in the booth is very strong on both the residential and commercial sides of our business. We don’t see many dealers or distributors from the U.S. at ISE,” Hensley continued. “That’s okay, as we really focus on supporting our international distributors, and it’s been a great show for them.”

However, Gary Dayton, VP of U.S. sales at Bryston, witnessed more of a U.S. presence, and was wowed by the diversity of the commercial AV products on display.

“ISE is a well-conceived show combining residential and commercial AV solutions, all under one roof, and I am confident that Bryston benefitted from exhibiting,” Dayton said. “Looking around at the vast and diverse commercial product offerings was inspirational. I also felt that North America was very well represented in terms of both manufacturers and attendees. I saw integrators from all over the U.S. on the show floor.”

Nick Belcore, executive vice president of global sales and marketing, Peerless-AV, could also see the huge value of ISE as a launchpad for manufacturers’ new products, and as a global event. “Peerless-AV places tremendous value on ISE as a resource. The year’s preeminent technology is on display and provides valuable insight into product invention and evolutionary trends, as well as the ability to showcase your innovation to a broad international audience.

“As a meeting resource, ISE draws a diversity of customers and partners from around the world encompassing a variety of strategic and partnership needs. It has become an instrumental part of our global presence and market learning.”

And Alex Camara, CEO at AudioControl, confirmed that American visitors were on the up, with valuable insight as to why this may be the case—the combination of commercial and residential all under one roof.

“I saw primarily international visitors but a growing presence of U.S. attendance as well. This is an important show for AudioControl, I would say on par with CEDIA. I met a number of U.S. dealers, from the East Coast especially. I see the ISE premise, combining residential and commercial AV channels together as wise—valuable for exhibitors and something that should be considered in the U.S.”

As ISE continues to grow, both in size (exhibitor capacity aside in the current venue) and influence, it’s clear that its importance to American integrators, distributors, and manufacturers will only keep expanding. This is, after all, a global event of global importance, with exhibitors and attendees from around the world—there were 177 different countries represented by attendees in 2017, and we expect this to have broadened when the 2018 figures are released. Exhibitors love ISE, with the majority of booth space booked for the next year show before the end of each event (according to the organizers, floorspace booked for ISE 2019 currently stands at 103 percent of the total booked for ISE 2019). And let’s be honest, 80,923 AV professionals can’t be wrong!

Rob Lane is founder/director of UK-headquartered tech PR agency Bigger Boat PR and has 20+ years of experience of writing for, editing, and publishing AV publications. He writes regularly for a variety of commercial and residential AV magazines.